Cash, credit cards, and cheques: Choosing a bank
In Germany, cash payments still play a large role in public life. However, many of your regular payments, such as payments for rent or utilities, can be automatically deducted from your bank giro account by direct debit. Often this is a requirement for rent or other payments.
For this reason, amongst others, opening a curren account (i.e. a giro account which money can be transferred to and from – also from abroad) with a German bank is quite convenient. There are numerous banks and saving banks ('Sparkassen') in Germany. A 'Sparkasse' falls under the jurisdiction of the local community and, in the past, its business has been restricted to this community. Nowadays the German 'Sparkassen' form a network and therefore appear to their customers as a nation-wide enterprise, like other banks. The Sparkasse Göttingen also runs a service desk on campus for students.
As conditions vary, checking with different banks or a financial advisor is often advisable.
Prior to your departure from Germany, please close the German bank account. That way you will be able to get all funds that are in your account returned to you.
EC-Card and Cash Group
The EC-Card which comes with a current account makes cash withdrawals possible at virtually any cash-point (of any bank) in Germany as well as cash-points abroad displaying the Maestro Logo. Cash withdrawals from the bank at which your account is situated or partnering banks are generally free. If you have a current account with a 'Sparkasse' branch, then cash withdrawals at cashpoints of any other 'Sparkasse' in Germany are also free of charge. If you have a current account at Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Postbank or HypoVereinsbank, then cash withdrawals at any cash-point (in Germany) of any of these five banks or at any other cash-point showing the Cash Group Logo are free of charge. These five banks are the main partners of the 'Cash Group'.
At present, a service fee of 5 Euros (or more) is typically charged for withdrawals from other banks' cash-points, unless they are within the same banking group. Please note that an even higher service fee is frequently charged for cash withdrawals at cash-points abroad.
The use and acceptance of credit cards is becoming more common in Germany however not all shops and restaurants except the cards of all the big four (Visa, Master-Card, American Express and Diners Club). Some shops, restaurants or enterprises will only accept cash or 'EC-Cards' (look for the Maestro Logo) as a means of payment.
Cheques are uncommon in Germany and are only used on special occasions. Traveller cheques can be cashed at many (but not all) shops, restaurants and banks – however often with a surcharge. Cashing or lodging cheques or bank drafts at a bank generally involves a similar surcharge. Please note that Travellers Cheque Cards will be introduced in the near future and, that traveller’s cheques may then become obsolete.